It’s time to admit it. The world has begun the shift to a digital space. Most of our business is carried out using either laptops or cell phones. And for the most part youth are the ones carrying out most of this business.
- 500 million Tweets are sent every day
- Almost 3/4 of teens aged 12 – 17 have Facebook accounts
- In 2013 Tumblr instilled a “post limit” to the number of posts an account can make on a daily basis
There is obviously an exciting conversation occurring nonstop in this new space. The Internet provides constant connectivity and a space where youth can establish their identity.
However, I can’t help but get an uneasy feeling when I read about the shift of social interaction to digital spaces. I fear that many people will be left behind and that something truly magnificent could be lost in the process of this paradigm shift.
While one of our readings specifically noted that the rise of cell phone use in adolescents has created a subculture, unifying teens and preteens across cultures, the reading also mentioned this:
“The cell phone becomes an agent of social change in the hands of active and economically and politically influential youths.” ~Abu Sadat Nurullah
What if you don’t have access to the conversation occurring across cultures, either because of a non-existent infrastructure or because you personally can not afford it? What if you end up searching for signals like the men in the featured photo? What if you don’t have enough influence to even have a voice in this discussion?
We are all losing something in this mad dash to be a part of this digital conversation. The pervasive use of cell phones – and the constant contact with the Internet that it provides – has not only affected language but has also affected our attention spans. Our hyper-connectivity with each other in digital spaces could be hurting our social interaction in the physical world. And our immersion in and reliance on this digital space could be damaging this world.
In 2002, a conservationist in the UK did a study to examine how well school-age children know their natural environment compared to how well they know Pokemon. On average the 8 year olds studied could identify approximately 50 percent or less of common species found in nature. But the average for Pokemon identification was over 80 percent. Although it is a dated study it proves a strong point: youth are becoming more and more isolated from nature.
Additionally, our planet might not be able to support our incessant need for this digital space. Rare earth elements are required to build our appliances. But they’re also necessary for building the infrastructure for nonrenewable energy. And there’s a limited supply.
I don’t have the answers to all of these questions. And honestly, no one is going to get out of this alone. Ironically, we have to use this new digital space to change the conversation to foster a place where everyone is given an equal opportunity.